According to the American Heart Association, half of American adults have hypertension. Uncontrolled hypertension is a leading cause of illness for Americans, but fortunately with proper diagnosis and treatment you can take control to prevent long term complications. Dr. Daniel Lorch, cardiologist at Westmed, shares everything you need to know about hypertension.
What is hypertension?
When your heart pumps blood through your arteries, it puts pressure on your artery walls. Over time, this can damage the lining of the arteries which causes negative effects on internal organs. A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 by the latest guidelines.
What is the best way to find out if you have hypertension?
Check your blood pressure regularly. Your doctor will check at your annual physical, and you can also check it for free at supermarket kiosks and many drug stores. Home blood pressure kits are also very easy to use (simply push a button), and newer models can connect to your smartphone.
In many cases, there are no symptoms – hypertension can be a “silent killer”.
Why is this such a big deal?
When left untreated, high blood pressure can damage your circulatory system over time. Serious consequences, like heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, heart failure, and blindness can result. These are very common ailments – finding and treating hypertension can cut the risk in half.
Why do people get hypertension?
There are many factors that contribute to high blood pressure:
- Too much sodium in your diet
- Not being physically active
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Sleep apnea
- Being overweight
- A family history of high blood pressure (genetics)
- Age (adults will start developing hypertension around age 40, though it can happen in your 20’s and 30’s in many cases, especially with a strong family history or other risk factors)
I just found out I have high blood pressure. What can I do about it?
There are many things you can do to lower your blood pressure.
- Monitor sodium intake – ideally less than 2,000 mg a day
- Limit alcohol intake (1 drink per day in women, 2 drinks per day in men)
- Weight loss
- A diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy, with limited saturated fat (DASH diet).
- Eating more potassium rich foods (citrus, leafy greens, tomatoes, bananas, melon, and many others)
- Exercise – both aerobic (cardio) and isometric (yoga, Pilates, weights, etc.)
- In many cases, medications are required to prevent long term consequences even with lifestyle improvements, to get your pressure to 130/80 or less.
If you are concerned you may have high blood pressure, you can make an appointment for a physical exam with an internal medicine provider which will include checking your blood pressure. If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, now might be a good time to see a Westmed cardiologist to ensure you are on the right medications and you’re being actively monitored.